Top Engineers – Chris Kimsey

Chris Kimsey Engineered Two of My Favorite Records of All Time

More of Our Favorite Engineers

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Chris Kimsey is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the links below to find his albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries.

Chris Kimsey Engineered Albums Available Now

Chris Kimsey Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

I have two personal favorites among his many excellent recordings:

  1. A Space in Time (1971)
  2. Wind of Change (1972)

Both are Must Own records in my book. Masterpieces. Desert Island Discs.

In my opinion, both are records that should be more popular with audiophiles. For some reason they are not. If you have not heard one or both of these classics, check them out. They are the very definition of the kind of Big Production Rock I have been listening to since I first fell in love with them back in the early Seventies. That was about fifty years ago and I still play both of them regularly for enjoyment. I have never tired of the music on either of them in all that time and I don’t think I ever will.

I’m sure you have plenty of records you feel the same way about in your collection. These are two of mine.

These are the very definition of Big Speaker albums. The better pressings have the kind of ENERGY in their grooves that are sure to have most audiophile systems begging for mercy.

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, don’t expect to hear them the way Chris Kimsey wanted you to. Both album want to rock your world, and that’s exactly what our Hot Stamper pressings are especially good at.

Ten Years After and Peter Frampton are two of the most influential and important artists/bands in my growth as a music lover and audiophile, joining the ranks of Roxy Music, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and countless others, musicians and bands who seemed to me dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to accurately reproduce the scores of challenging recordings issued by these groups in the ’70s.

You could say that the albums of all of these artists informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on. It’s what Progress in Audio is all about.

I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records recordings such as these, albums with music I fell in love with back in the ’70s.

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Not one of his better efforts, and not one of his better photos, but this is the guy that engineered so truly wonderful sounding albums that I have been playing for practically fifty years. I can’t thank him enough.

A Space in Time – On Our List of the Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings of All Time

Reviews and Commentaries for A Space in Time

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This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted. (Of course, as it turns out, recording technology only got worse as the decade wore on, and during the ’80s the sound of most records went off a cliff.) Big Production British Rock & Roll just doesn’t get much better than A Space in Time.

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

You don’t need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who’ve experienced top quality analog pressings of Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that’s the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over A Space in Time.

Ranked strictly in terms of Tubey Magic I would have to put this album on our list of Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings of All Time, right up there with, in no particular order:

  • Sgt. Pepper (1967),
  • Meddle (1971),
  • Dark Side of the Moon (1973),
  • Dire Straits Self-Titled (1977, and clearly the outlier in this group),
  • The Eagles Self-Titled (1972),
  • Tommy (1969),
  • The Doors Self-Titled (1967),
  • Ziggy Stardust (1972),
  • Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

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Led Zeppelin / Led Zeppelin III – Always wanted to have a “clean” original? Here’s your chance.

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More Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

We should have said “here was your chance” since this pressing sold very quickly. Over the years most Plum and Orange pressings were disposed of on ebay for the benefit of collectors and those audiophiles who might be ill-informed enough to think that early British pressings would have the best sound for Led Zeppelin III. (This is a record we know very well.)

They do not. They can, however, sound quite good in some cases with the proper cleaning. Not Shootout Winning Good: we actually have a section for those killer copies, this one.

Not even Double Plus (A++) good, which sounds like something from the novel 1984 but is in fact a Very Good grade and guaranteed to trounce any and all copies of the album you have ever heard.

No, the best Zeppelin album we have played to date with the early label in this case earned a grade of Single Plus to Double Plus, which we describe as “[a] wonderful sounding side with many impressive qualities, notably better than a Single Plus copy. A big step up from the typical pressing.”

NOTE: We do not even offer Single Plus copies on the site anymore. Although their faults would be less obvious to anyone who went through the shootout process with the album, such faults are too bothersome to us precisely because we did go through that process.

Once you know what is right, it’s very easy to spot what is wrong. This is the foundational principle of our Hot Stampers. Hot Stampers are not simply good sounding records. They are records that have gone through a shootout.

It is also our story with regard to most of the Heavy Vinyl pressings we have played over the last twenty five years, the worst of which can be found here. We see very little evidence that we got any of that wrong. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Frampton

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  • An outstanding original A&M pressing of Frampton with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Far too many copies have a problem with dry, edgy, lean vocals, the kind of vocal sound you simply cannot find anywhere on UK pressings of Wind of Change, but the best pressings of Frampton are richer and tubier without crossing into being dark and murky
  • This has long been a personal favorite of mine, it’s a an album I’ve played hundreds of times and never tired of
  • 4 stars: “Frampton exited Humble Pie because that group fell into a loud, hard rock groove that overwhelmed the technical skills he’d spent years working on as a guitarist; he poured a lot of that into this highly melodic mid-tempo rock album.”

A bit of background: Both his first solo album and this, his fourth, were recorded by the well-known engineer Chris Kimsey, who famously worked with the Stones and others too numerous to mention. To say that the sound of his albums varies considerably would be the understatement of the year. The first album (British only, fyi) is rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical as practically anything you’ve ever heard (as well as overly tube compressed, its biggest fault).

Sonically this album tends to be none of those things. However, if you play enough copies you are sure to run into at least some that sound right.

I unashamedly confess to being a huge Frampton fan to this very day. His first album, Wind of Change, has been a Desert Island Disc for me ever since I picked up my first copy while still in high school in 1972. I’m a Big Production Rock Guy, as you may have guessed from looking at the records we rave about the most, and Frampton’s first album is a classic of Big Production Rock, in the style of Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, Songs for Beginners and fifty others I could name. Make that a hundred others. Or two hundred.

Which also explains why I’ve had very large dynamic speakers since about 1975, when I was first able to scrape together enough money to buy a pair of the well-regarded RTR 280-DR. (My mother had to co-sign the loan I took out shortly thereafter to buy an Audio Research SP3A-1 preamp and D-75 amp to power them, if that tells you anything. And ARC was reasonably priced back then; neither piece was even a grand!)

This fourth Frampton album may not boast the sound of his first, but it can have reasonably good sound, and musically it’s his strongest album after his debut, providing as it does much of the material for the blockbuster double live album that was to follow in less than a year, the one that broke the all time sales record set by Tapestry (and would be be bested itself soon enough by a little number known as the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever). (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin III

  • Outstanding sound throughout with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, Tangerine and That’s the Way are just a few of the tracks that have truly Demo Disc sound
  • “On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.”

Drop the needle on Since I’ve Been Loving You and turn it up good and loud. Robert Plant will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!

Cue up Tangerine on side two for a taste of rich, sweet, Tubey Magical Analog Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from bad mastering or phony EQ. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You

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  • Tattoo You returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • The midrange is both rich and clear, with Jagger’s vocals front and center, exactly where they belong
  • The piano has real weight, the grungy guitars are suitably distorted, and the tonal balance is correct from top to bottom, our classic Hot Stamper sound in a nutshell
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Tattoo You captures the Stones at their best as a professional stadium-rock band. Divided into a rock & roll side and a ballad side, the album delivers its share of thrills. . .”

In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you the kind of energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

The sound here is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. The best sides have more extension up top and more size to the soundfield as well.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

Ten Years After – A Killer Audio Fidelity Gold CD

A Space in Time

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Our old commentary:

A Great CD Is Born

By the way, the BGO Import CD of this album is excellent. No match for a Hot Stamper of course, but dramatically better than the average classic rock CD, and quite a bit better than the domestic CDs we’ve auditioned.

Newsflash (3/2014)

The Audio Fidelity Gold CD mastered by Steve Hoffman is even better. If you don’t want to buy a Hot Stamper LP, that CD is your best bet (assuming it sounds as good as mine, something one cannot assume but that’s a story for another day).

Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

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  • A STUNNING copy of Frampton’s Camel with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • On his second album, Frampton fronts a real rock band, playing his unique style of rock and pop, electric and acoustic, with consummate skill – if you’re a Frampton fan this is a record that belongs in your collection
  • Superb engineering from Chris Kimsey and Eddie Kramer at Olympic and Electric Lady Studios
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Named after Frampton’s touring band at the time, Frampton’s Camel has a harder-rocking feel than its predecessor Wind of Change, with Mick Gallagher’s percussive electric piano and organ taking a prominent position in the mix and Frampton getting a harder sound from his electric guitars (though his acoustic playing is so lush and lyrical that it dominates the album here and there in its quiet way).”

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The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • It’s got weight, punch, energy and fullness – qualities key to the best sounding pressings
  • Tons of great songs – Miss You, Beast of Burden and Shattered, all sounding shockingly good – thanks to the engineering skills of Chris Kimsey
  • 5 stars: “Opening with the disco-blues thump of “Miss You,” Some Girls is a tough, focused, and exciting record, full of more hooks and energy than any Stones record since Exile on Main St. Even Their rockers sound harder and nastier than they have in years.”

This is the Stones’ last truly great album. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. With hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden, it’s easy to see why.

Most copies are too thin and grainy for serious audiophile listening, but this one is a different story. It’s not easy to find great sound for The Stones, so take this one home for a spin if you want to hear this band bring these songs to life in your very own listening room.

Not many copies have this kind of clarity and transparency, or this kind of big, well-defined bottom end. The sound of the hi-hat is natural and clear on this pressing, as are the vocals, which means that the tonality in the midrange is correct, and what could be more important than a good midrange? It’s where the music is. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Steel Wheels

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we would be very surprised if you’ve ever heard Steel Wheels sound remotely as good as it does on this pressing
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard
  • 4 1/2 stars in Rolling Stone: “All the ambivalence, recriminations, attempted rapprochement and psychological one-upmanship evident on Steel Wheels testify that the Stones are right in the element that has historically spawned their best music – a murky, dangerously charged environment in which nothing is merely what it seems. Against all odds, and at this late date, the Stones have once again generated an album that will have the world dancing to deeply troubling, unresolved emotions.”

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